Checking the Facts
Have you received an email, read a post online or heard a rumor and want to know if it's true? There are many non-partisan organizations with resources to help you check the facts. You can also contact our office, and we will research your topic for you.
Politifact - A Pulitzer Prize-winning project by the Tampa Bay Times
FactCheck - A project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center
FactCheckEd - A FactCheck website especially for students and educators
The Fact Checker - A blog by the Washington Post
Rumor: Members of Congress exempted themselves from participating in the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare").
Fact: Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there have been misconceptions that the law exempts members of Congress and Congressional staff. There is no truth to this rumor. Beginning in 2014, health insurance exchange marketplaces will provide small businesses and individuals who don’t get coverage through their employers, with a “one-stop shop” to find and compare private and non-profit health insurance options. The exchange marketplace will make private and non-profit plans operate on a level playing field and give consumers more control over their health care coverage. The ACA states that members of Congress and Congressional staff will be required to purchase insurance through these exchanges starting in 2014.
There have been recent reports about renewed efforts to exempt Congressional staff from the ACA. These reports are inaccurate. In fact, Congress is working to ensure that Members and staff can enter the marketplaces as required by law in 2014. Currently, the law allows large employers – defined in the law as those with more than 100 employees – to purchase health insurance through the exchange marketplaces beginning in 2017. Congress must make sure that the exchange markets are set up to receive premium contributions in 2014 for those working in Congress, from the large employer that is the federal government.
Rumor: Congress does not pay into Social Security
Fact: In 1983, the Social Security Act Amendments was signed into law, providing mandatory Social Security coverage for Members of Congress and the Vice President, as of January 1, 1984. More information from FactCheck. Also read an article written by Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute on "The Rumored Perks of Congressional Service."
Rumor: Congress gets its full salary as pension after just one term
Fact: Members of Congress are generally covered under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS). They are eligible for a pension at the age of 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary. For more information, click here. Also read an article written by Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute on "The Rumored Perks of Congressional Service."
Rumor: Agenda 21 gives control of U.S. land, water and air to the UN
Fact: Developed by the United Nations in 1992, Agenda 21 is a non-binding resolution to recognize global environment and development concerns and to suggest actions to address these concerns. The plan hopes to alleviate the effects of climate change on a local, national, and global level. While its stated purpose is to confront the threat of climate change with sound sustainable development practices, Internet rumors surrounding Agenda 21 have persisted. This resolution is non-binding, and there are no facts to support global conspiracy claims.
Rumor: President Obama’s finance team wants to impose a 1% tax on all financial transactions
Fact: This idea has been introduced by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA). It has never been proposed or endorsed by President Obama. The bill has never attracted any co-sponsors nor has it had any committee hearings. The Debt Free America Act, H.R. 1125 in this Congress and H.R. 4646 in the previous Congress, would impose a 1% tax on all retail and financial transactions, except for stock and personal bank transactions. In exchange for imposing the 1% transactions tax, the bill completely repeals the individual income tax.
Rumor: The phrase “In God We Trust” has been removed from $1 Coins
Fact: In January 2007, the U.S. Mint initiated the release of a series of dollar coins, similar to the 50 State Quarters Program, called the Presidential $1 Coin Program. Each coin in this series will bear the likeness of a former U.S. President on the front and a representation of the Statue of Liberty on the back. Production was suspended, however, last year. As specified by the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005, in order to allow for "larger and more dramatic artwork" on the coins' faces, the Presidential $1 coins include "In God We Trust" and "E Pluribus Unum" as edge-incused inscriptions. That is, these elements appear on the edges of the coins. In 2009, the inscription "In God We Trust" was moved from the edge of the coin to the front.
Rumor: The President signed an Executive Order giving control of national resources to the Executive Branch
Fact: According to the Congressional Research Service, "executive orders and proclamations are used extensively by Presidents to achieve policy goals, set uniform standards for managing the executive branch, or outline a policy view." The first Executive Order was issued by George Washington in 1789, and many Executive Orders still on today's books have been around since the 1800s.
On March 16, 2012, President Obama issued an Executive Order on National Defense Resources Preparedness. Contrary to many Internet rumors, this Executive Order merely restated a policy that has been in place since the Truman Administration. The Executive Order authorizes the President to direct private business to allocate any resources deemed necessary to national defense in a time of national emergency. The only significant change in the most recent Executive Order reflects the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Rumor: The Affordable Care Act imposes a 3.8% tax on home sales
Fact: The health care law includes a 3.8% tax on investment income, such as income from stocks and bonds, for married couples making more than $250,000 (or $200,000 for individuals). The tax begins in 2013. In some instances, this could include a portion of the profits from the sale of high-income taxpayers’ homes. There is not, however, a general sales tax on the sale of everyone’s home. If certain homeownership criteria are met, married homeowners currently pay no tax at all on the first $500,000 in profit from the sale of their home ($250,000 for individuals). The 3.8% tax would only apply to the amount of profit above the $500,000 tax-free level, and only on high-income taxpayers. Only a small fraction of the wealthiest Americans – approximately 3% – would be affected by this provision. For example, assume that a married couple with income of $300,000 sells their primary home because they wish to downsize. They make a profit of $600,000. The first $500,000 in profit is not taxable. The extra $100,000 gain would be subject to the new 3.8% excise tax.